Zitkála-Šá, also known by her missionary name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was born on February 22, 1876, on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota, then the Dakota Territory.

A member of the Yankton Dakota Sioux, Zitkála-Šá was a poet, musician, librettist, short story writer, essayist, activist, and the cocreator, with William F. Hanson, of The Sun Dance Opera, an opera based on the Lakota Sun Dance ceremony. In 1926 she cofounded, with her husband Raymond Bonnin, the National Council of American Indians, an advocacy organization for Native American rights.

Zitkála-Šá died on January 26, 1938, in Washington, D.C. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery with her husband.